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Wildlife charity seek volunteers for stag beetle surveys

Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is asking for your help to monitor and protect endangered stag beetles this summer, either by taking part in the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey, joining the Great Stag Hunt or by making your garden a stag beetle haven.

Stag beetles are Britain’s largest land beetle with males reaching up to 7.5 cm in size. They are also one of the most spectacular looking insects, with a males’ huge mandibles (antler-like jaws) making them easy to spot. Despite their appearance, stag beetles are harmless if left alone, and from mid-to-late-May are more likely to be seen as warmer evenings draw them above ground to find a mate.

For the European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network survey, groups or individuals in the UK are encouraged to record sightings of stag beetles on six warm summer evenings during June and July. Findings will form part of an ongoing European study into these impressive, yet endangered beetles and taking part couldn’t be easier, with research conducted on your evening dog walk or post-work jog, for example. For more info go to www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org

PTES is also keen for members of the public to record any sightings directly to them via the Great Stag Hunt – an annual stag beetle survey PTES has been running for nearly 20 years. Last year, over 6,107 records (of both larvae and adult beetles) were submitted to PTES via the Great Stag Hunt website: 925 larvae and 5,182 adult beetles. To record a sighting, please visit: www.ptes.org/gsh and take a photo too if you can.

Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES, explains: “Loss of habitat and lack of dead or decaying wood are just two of the reasons why stag beetles need our help. Stag beetles are completely reliant on dead wood (either partially or completely buried) and are part of the process of recycling nutrients back into the soil, making them a very important part of the ecosystem. They mainly live in Britain’s gardens, parks, woodland edges and traditional orchards, and were once widespread throughout Europe. We hope that by taking part in this European survey, PTES’ annual Great Stag Hunt, and by making gardens stag beetle friendly, the public can help reverse the decline of this iconic insect.”

As well as the two surveys, anyone with a garden can help by making their green spaces a stag beetle haven. From creating a log pile, to leaving plenty of dead wood for stag beetles, there are lots of things gardeners can do to help:

Save our stag beetles: top tips for gardeners

  1. Create a log pile: One of the major problems facing stag beetles is a lack of rotting wood to lay eggs in or near, and for larvae to feed on. By creating a log pile (or a log pyramid, if you fancy a challenge!), you can provide stag beetles with habitat for the future. Log piles are also great habitat for other invertebrates and they in turn provide food for hedgehogs and birds.
  2. Leave dead wood in your garden: Leave old stumps and dead wood alone, as these provide the perfect habitat and also a food supply. If you want to make the stumps more attractive – try growing a climbing plant such as clematis up it.
  3. Reduce dangers: Be vigilant when mowing your lawn and be alert for predators; try and scare away magpies and keep your own pets indoors during warm evenings when stag beetles are flying. Also, make sure any open water has an exit point, and if you see a dead-looking beetle in water, please take it out – they often revive!
  4. Record your sightings: Let PTES know where you’ve spotted a stag beetle via the Great Stag Hunt! Sightings are key to finding out where populations are thriving, in need of help, or non-existent.

Visit www.ptes.org/stagbeetles to find out more, including how to build a log pile or pyramid, ID guides so you know a stag when you see one, and to record your sightings.

Stag beetle larvae – Photo Peter Cox

Main stag beetle image – Bill Plumb

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